Ranza (Changeling 4)
Jonesomon (Specialist 5)
Gnarl (Wood Gnome 5)
Hobbs (Hedgefey 4)
Gnarl (Wood Gnome 5)
Hobbs (Hedgefey 4)
Thrax (Fighter 3)
Vergarious (Changeling 3)
Uncertain of where to go from here, the party was easily convinced by Hobbs to go in search of this pit or cave where men fought beasts to become skinchangers. Something in his noble badger heart had been moved by the thought of his forest kin being sacrificed for such a purpose. The broke camp and climbed back up the wooded slope, coming eventually to a deep dell. At the end of the dell a waterfall, tumbling off the hill above, seemed to disappear into the earth. Closer investigation by the stealthy Jonesomon and Hobbs confirmed this; they discovered a passage sloping into the base of the hill, down which the stream poured. And alongside the stream was a narrow ledge or path cut into the limestone. After building a hidden enclosure to hopefully keep the donkeys and Hoppy safe in their absence, the party first had Thrax consult the quilt of augury to ask if they would encounter skinchangers. It indicated "no", so they confidently lit a torch and started to descend. The path was muddy and steeply pitched, making travel slow and precarious. Noting signs of footprints, both man and beast, in the mud, they searched along the way for any sign that the footprints turned off the trail to pass through a hidden or secret door. But found nothing. As they descended a bit further, paintings were seen on the wall of the cave, showing man and beasts and hybrids of the two.
Reaching the bottom, the path leveled out and opened into a wider cavern. To the left the stream splashed into a large pool that extended onwards in the darkness. Underfoot was white sand that sparkled in their torchlight, while ahead and to the right were two passages. From the one in front a faint flickering light emerged, so after a quick check to the right (finding nothing but old campfires and damp walls) the party headed in that direction. Jonesomon and Thrax entered first, and were confronted by an old man standing in front of a small fire and brandishing a spear. Behind him on the other side of the fire lay what looked like a body, not clear if it was dead of alive. The old man (Ufra) confronted the two (and the rest of the party as they streamed into the room), weary and warily telling them to not disturb his son; the one who lay on the other side of the fire. In the ensuring short confrontation, Gnarl tried knocking the man out with a blow with the shaft of his spear; this was unsuccessful and Ufra responded with a stab to the wood gnomes belly. Thrax calmed the situation and, after some back and forth with Ufra in coarse Common, drew out some details of the situation. The son was currently in a vision quest, completing his transformation into a skinchanger. Asked for more details of the process, the old said only the ones who would become skinchangers must fight and defeat an animal of the type they've chosen for their transformation. The rest of the details of how they then ended up in the vision quest the man could not say, he himself having never taken that path. Asked where these rituals occurred, the man vaguely indicated deeper in the cave.
Bidding the old man farewell, the party moved deeper into the cavern complex, following a narrow winding path which would occasionally open into a larger cave. Then suddenly Jonesomon heard from ahead the faint sound of screams and howls, not in pain but with anger and rage. Using his stealthy skills, the specialist slipped forward for a look. He found a small cave, lit by faint torchlight. Standing there was a huge bear of a man, arms folded over his chest, eye's closed and head downcast. As Jonesomon stood there, another bout of screaming emerged from a side passage, making the standing man flinch. He moved back to inform the party, and they decided to move up. Thrax stepped into the chamber and started to talk to the man, who like Ufra warned him off. The screaming sound was coming from an adjacent cave, where his his brother was in the final throws of his vision quest. Plying the exhausted and famished man with mugs of ale from his robe of refreshment, Thrax got him to relax and start talking more. It seemed that if disturbed during the vision quest, the person would die. After the transformation quest was over, the person would also be unable to control their animal instincts and would be turned loose into the wilderness to hunt and slay and offer blood to the Earth Mother until enough time had passed they they could exert their human side and regain control. Then they could rejoin their tribe in the mountain fastness. Asked more about the rituals, the man (Barska) told only of the hand to hand fight with their chosen spirit animal; beyond that he vaguely refereed to being brought before the Earth Mother. But no amount of ale would get more information from him.
While Thrax kept Barska distracted, Joensomon once more slipped past to scout ahead. He found a cavern filled with supplies (food, firewood, etc). Heading back, he collected the rest of the party and they all moved on once Thrax had placated Barska. They passed through the storage room, coming to another intersection. To one side they found a torch lit room with a stag, chained to a wall, being cared for by a man. They decided not to disturb that scene, and moved down the other passage. Soon light and sound appeared ahead, so once more Jonesomon slipped forward. He saw what could only be the site of the combat trials. There he observed, lit by huge bonfires, a large sandy cavern which opened onto the pool or lake. In the middle was a crude fighting ring where a wolf and a young man, stripped to the waist and armed only with a knife, circled each other. They were watched by a small cluster of other men and a trio of what could only be the tribal chiefs or shamans. Meanwhile to one side was a small cluster of men around another small fire; one of them appeared to be getting ready for his fight and all were drinking and smoking as they sat.
Jonesomon backed up and told the party what they had seen. Wary of confronting that crowd, they decided to retrace steps and try wading down the stream/lake instead. This went well at first, but as the water started to get deeper and and the lake wider, Ranza at the back of the line was suddenly grabbed from below by a mass of hairy tentacles with deadly sharp suckers. She was slashed unconscious and dragged below the water's surface. Gnarl, just in front of her, activated his shocking grasp spear and stabbed into the mass. With one blow he killed the hairy thing and rescued the changeling. The party retreated and hauled Ranza back to lay her safely on the sand. They also hauled the dead bulbous mass out of the water and slit it open, recovering a bit of coin and gem from its several stomachs. After a fruitless search for it's lair (and hopefully further treasure), the party decided it best to leave. They saw no gain in pushing forward at this time, and Ranza was in hard shape. Climbing back to daylight and recovering their animals, the party decided to cross the valley to the southernmost watchtower, hoping to find a place to rest and recover. There was also talk of searching out the witch, for Gnarl and Thrax were starting to worry about the long term effects of their pact with the white stone ...
2 gems (100sp, 100sp)